Friday, December 11, 2009

Soup Exchange Party: Soup's On!

Is there a better lunch than soup?  Especially in the fall and winter.  Especially when homemade.  Especially in a mug.  Soup satisfies every lunch need I have.  It's filling, yet doesn't induce a food-coma the way, say, a giant shrimp burrito from Nico's does.  When homemade, soup is nourishing -- often full of veggies and always rehydrating.  Plus, a mug of piping-hot soup is simply an enormously pleasant lunch experience. The wonderful aromas float up on the steam, the mug gives your hands a satisfying warmth, and the heat forces you to take tiny spoonfuls, slowing down your lunch to a leisurely pace.

I make myself a giant pot of soup at least once a month, eating some and freezing the rest in individual portions for lunches.  Trouble is, I get bored eating the same lunch all month.  I recently made a delicious pot of butternut squash and pear soup that was flavored with a vanilla bean steeped in cream.  Amazing.  Awesome. Ambrosial.  . . . Until I had to eat that sweet soup for the 8th time.  (As you may know by now, I'm not a huge fan of sweetness as a dish's main taste experience.)  I was so over that soup by the end of that month. 

So what's a soup-loving, variety-craving girl to do?  Two words:  Soup Party!  Inspired by all the holiday cookie exchanges this time of year, I recently hosted a soup exchange with other moms.  It was wondeful!  Eleven moms participated, so we all ended up with eleven servings of -- here's the exciting part! -- different types of soup!  And, wow, did we have variety!  We had tomato-basil, thai coconut, black bean, lentil tandoori, butternut squash, potato leek, Moroccan chickpea, Thai peanut/sweetpotato/ pumpkin, black bean and pumpkin, southwestern "taco," and sweet corn with chili oil and mint.  Ooh-la-la.  The party itself was a lovely way to spend a morning, and my freezer is now stocked with quick, healthful, satisfying lunches in a rainbow of colors and flavors.  I've been eating like a queen every lunch since.  (I even took the corn soup to SeaWorld with me, in my daughter's Scooby Doo thermos.  Much better than amusement park food!  And probably the most sophisticated food ever packaged in a Scooby Doo thermos.)  What a gift, especially during this busy -- and junk-food-filled -- time of the year. 

Want to host a soup exchange party for yourself?  (Trust me:  you do!)  Here's how:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cranberry Scones: Thankful For Leftovers

My husband really loves scones.  If left to his own devices in a Peet's or Starbuck's, he comes out with an enormous coffee and an equally enormous scone -- usually one with some sort of sugary glaze on top.  Too sweet for me. I like the scones I fell in love with during my college semester in the U.K.  A biscuity scone with just a touch of sweetness and absolutely no PopTarts-style frosting on top.  Those are the scones that make me want to sit down, immediately, with a cup of tea and the crossword puzzle.

So when I came across Molly Wizenberg's scone recipe this summer, I was determined to make the scones that I craved.  Of course, I am a mom of two little children, so I don't actually get to sit down for a "cuppa" (as my Scottish grandma says) and a puzzle.  Which explains why it is late November and I am just now getting around to trying that scone recipe that I've had my eye on since mid-summer.  C'est la vie.
There is a silver lining to my lack of free time, however.  Had I tried this recipe any earlier, I would not have had an overabundance of leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce on hand.  And so I would not have made this particular, amazing version of these scones. And, man, these babies were worth the wait!  They are nicely crumbly and the perfect balance of sweet and tart. 

If you don't have cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving, don't fret.  Just take the basic scone recipe and add fillings of your choice.  See the link to Molly's recipe, linked above, for lots of ideas. Or just think about the best scones you've had in your life . . . were they lemon? berry? almond? maple? raisin? ginger?  I've got some ground hazelnuts leftover from a pumpkin pie, so I might experiment with those, next!  One note:  Because my cranberry sauce is very sweet and very cinnamon-y, I did not otherwise flavor the dough.  So if you are not using cranberry sauce, you will likely need to add about 3 TBSP of sugar (based on Molly's recipe) and a bit of the spice of your choice.  (If you don't have cranberry sauce, I bet you could just use some frozen cranberries and add 1/4 c of sugar, cinnamon, and maybe a bit of orange zest.)

I ended up making three batches of these today and then followed the suggestion in Molly's book to freeze them for holiday gifts.  In a world of Christmas chocolates and cookies, I think my daughter's teachers will appreciate a box of scones.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veggies: Roast 'em if You Got 'em!

I don't think I've told you, yet, about my deep and abiding love for roasted vegetables. I love them. Adore, worship, glorify, treasure, cherish them. That may sound a little over the top, to you, but really, I'm mad about roasted veggies. Roasting turns a vegetable into a more perfect version of itself -- a little sweeter, a little nuttier, a little more like a celebration, rather than the portion of your dinner you choke down for health purposes.

And I never get tired of roasted vegetables, since there are so many veggies and so many preparations. In the summer, I roast eggplant to use in ratatouille and turn pounds and pounds of tomatoes into edible rubies thanks to Molly Wizenburg's recipe for Slow-Roasted Tomatoes. When fall hits, there are trays upon trays of roasted veggies: fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, green beans, turnips, and winter squashes of all kinds. And on nights when we're having the emergency dinner of choice in our house -- quesadillas -- I can make an effortless, cheap, side dish out of a bag of frozen, organic corn.

So here are just a few of my favorite roasted veggie recipes for fall. Despite the fact that I'm posting recipes, there is not a "wrong" way to roast your veggies. As long as you get them onto a pan with some oil (or at least some Pam) and get them in the oven, they will probably turn out yummy. So, e.g., if my recipe below calls for a 425 degree oven, but you're cooking a main dish at 375, no sweat! Just pop the veggies in with your main dish, at the lower temp. Just roast 'em if you got 'em.


Sources: adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters, and William-Sonoma Vegetable, Marlena Spieler
Serves: about 6
Time: 5 mins. prep, 45 mins. unattended baking, another 5 mins. assembling

If you think you aren't a fan of beets because you've mostly had the canned variety that turns up on salad bars, then it's time to think again. Try this method and you'll end up like me: thinking about beets in the middle of the night, wondering whether your husband ate the leftover beet salad or whether you will get it for lunch tomorrow . . . Roasting beets, rather than boiling them, preserves the sugar in the beet -- it isn't lost into the boiling liquid. If you buy your beets with the greens still on and don't plan on preparing them for a few days, then cut the greens off a little above the root. The beet root will keep a week or so, without their tops, loosely wrapped in the fridge. (P.S. You can eat the greens, too!)
  • Beets
  • vinegar (Balsamic, red wine, white wine, sherry)
  • salt & pepper
  • sugar
  • olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the beet greens off, leaving about 1/2 inch of stem. Wash the beets well and put them in a baking dish with a big splash of water (about 1/2 inch of water). Cover tightly (either with a lid or foil) and bake for about 40 mins (for small beets) to 1 1/2 hrs. (for large beets) -- until a sharp knife easily pierces through the center of the biggest beet.
  2. After the beets have cooled a bit, peel them. I just slide the skins right off, using a small knife in any spots where it sticks. Cut them into quarters and place in a bowl.
  3. Sprinkle the beets with vinegar, salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Let them sit for as long as you can -- at least 15 mins. (The beets need a chance to absorb the vinegar to be truly, truly delicious!)
  4. Add a little olive oil -- not too much!

The beets are delicious just plain like this, but here are my favorite ways to finish them:

1. Add some crumbled goat cheese and dill.

2. Prep some baby greens with salt, pepper, juice from half a lemon, and olive oil. Put the beets on top. Bonus points: add goat cheese and toasted walnuts. (And grilled chicken is yummy, too!)
3. Toss some sections of blood oranges (or whatever oranges you have on hand) with the beets. Also good over the greens described above.


Source: adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Serves: about 4
Time: about 7 mins. prep, 20 mins. mostly unattended cooking time, and 5 more mins. assembling

This is my kids' favorite vegetable. We call it "Popcorn Cauliflower" in our house, as the little florets resemble popcorn -- and are coated with butter and crunchy salt.
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • cooking spray (or olive oil)
  • coarse salt
  • about 1-3 tsp. butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Prep the cauliflower: cut out the stem and separate the florets into small, bite-size pieces. Spray a baking sheet (jelly-roll pan) with Pam and spread the cauliflower onto it. Roast the cauliflower for about 20 mins, until it is nicely browned. Stir the florets once or twice while roasting.
  2. Meanwhile, put a bit of butter in a small frying pan and let it brown. (If you're rushed for time, use high heat and it will brown fast.)
  3. When the cauliflower is done, put it in a serving bowl and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle the browned butter on and toss.

Note: My neighbor adds mushrooms to the roasting pan, which sounds delicious, but I haven't tried it, yet!

Source: Adapted, barely, from Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters
Serves: 4-6
Time: 15 mins. prep, 40 mins. mostly unattended roasting time
  • 1 winter squash of your choice (butternut, acorn, kabocha, pumpkin, etc.)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • a few cloves of garlic
  • parsley or thyme
  1. Preheat your oven to 375.
  2. Peel your squash with a sharp vegetable peeler (and a knife, if necessary). Scoop out any seeds/strings. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Toss with a few whole cloves of garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet (jelly-roll pan) and roast for about 40 mins., until tender and nicely browned. Stir every now and again to prevent burning.
  3. Toss roasted squash with some freshly chopped parsley or thyme.
Source: Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters
Serves: 4 (or just me, alone)
Time: 7 mins. prep and about 20-30 mins. mostly unattended roasting time

I'm not much of a carrot fan, in general. I don't mind those ubiquitous baby carrots, but I don't exactly crave them. But find me a gorgeous bunch of carrots at the farmer's market and roast them up, and suddenly I'm sneaking the little gems off the baking sheet so fast that there are barely any left at the dinner table . . .
  • carrots
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Peel and trim the carrots and then cut them on the diagonal into thin slices. Toss the slices with a lot of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread the carrots into a single layer on a baking sheet (jelly-roll pan) and roast for about 20-30 mins. Definitely stir and toss them a few times, especially near the end. I like them pretty browned, but it's up to you.

Note: Alice Waters' recipe adds turnips to this, which sounds awesome. I've added wedges of onion and enjoyed that, too.

Source: Barely adapted from Cheap. Fast. Good., Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross
Serves: 4-6 (or just me, alone . . . again)
Time: 2 mins. prep and 10-15 mins. unattended cooking time

You won't believe how roasting can turn that bag of corn you always have stashed in your freezer into an exciting, craveable side dish. We make this any time we're having a Mexican main dish.
  • 1 lb. bag frozen corn (organic and extra-sweet recommended!)
  • 1 TBSP canola oil
  • Coarse salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 450.
  2. Dump the corn into a colander and rinse with cool water, to defrost somewhat. Drain well. (I pat it with paper towels, too.)
  3. Spread the corn on a baking sheet (jelly-roll pan). Drizzle with the oil. Stir to coat and then redistribute in a single layer. Roast until the kernels start to brown -- the original recipe calls for 10 mins, but I like them pretty browned, so I go closer to 15-20 mins. I stir at 10 mins., though. (If I can remember!)
  4. Season with coarse salt to taste.

Roast 'em if you got 'em! And let me know if you have a favorite roasted veggie I should try!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quickie Sheperd's Pie: Now With Ghosts!

I love Halloween. It's always been one of my favorite holidays -- dressing up in something that makes you feel fabulous, staying out "late," eating too many sweet things, feeling that little jolt of adrenaline when you get spooked . . . What's not to like here, folks?

On Halloween night, I always try to feed my kids an early and hearty dinner, aiming to stuff them full of something healthy before the candy binge starts. In the past, I've made a big pot of meatball minestrone, but my stash of frozen homemade meatballs was depleted this year. I wasn't sure what to make until I saw a picture of a mashed potato ghost sitting atop a bed of Sheperd's Pie in Better Homes & Gardens' special Halloween issue. Since I have a "quickie" (30-min) version of Sheperd's Pie in my repetoire, I had to try it with the ghosts on top!

It turned out really cute and both kids were delighted with their plates. (I added some "ghost toast" and "bat bread" to extend the spooky theme -- just buttered toast cut with a cookie cutter.) Ruby ate her mashed potato ghost immediately (and happily!), but Billy is still sticking to his anti-potato position. He ended up eating three pieces of "bat bread." Oh, well. Win some, lose some.
Here is my recipe for "Quickie" Sheperd's Pie, based on one I found years ago in my trusty Desperation Dinners cookbook. My main adaptation has been to use my own leftover mashed potatoes and to hide some extra veggies in the meat. (My kids are not great veggie-lovers, so I run a carrot and a red pepper in the food processor and add them.) This is a great post-Thanksgiving meal, as it uses up extra mashed potatoes!


Source: Adapted from Desperation Dinners, Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross
Serves: 4-6
Time: less than 30 mins
  • 1 lb ground beef

  • 2 tsp canola oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 2 TBSP ketchup

  • 1 TBSP Worchestershire sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 c frozen peas

  • 1 c frozen corn

  • other veggies as desired (canned, frozen, steamed & pureed, or just fresh veggies chopped finely in the food processor)

  • 1 tsp beef "Better Than Bouillon" (or 1 beef bouillon cube)

  • 1/2 c water

  • 1 TBSP cornstarch (might need more if you use a lot of pureed or minced veggies)

  • leftover mashed potatoes OR 20 oz. package of refrigerated mashed potatoes OR large container of mashed potatoes from deli section of your grocery store

  • 1/2 c sour cream

  • 1 c shredded sharp Cheddar
  1. Turn on your broiler.

  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Peel and chop the onion and add it to the skillet. Add the beef and raise the heat to high. Cook, breaking up the beef, about 5 mins. or until the beef is browned.

  3. Stir in the ketchup, Worchestershire, and garlic. Then stir in any veggies you are using (frozen peas, corn, purees, whatever you've got). Reduce the heat and let simmer.

  4. Meanwhile, combine the "Better Than Bouillon" with the 1/2 c water and heat in a microwave. Stir to fully dissolve. Next, make a slurry to thicken the beef mixture: stir the cornstarch into the bouillon to dissolve. Pour the slurry over the skillet and stir well. Continue to simmer, letting it thicken. If it doesn't thicken enough, make another little slurry (1 TBSP cornstarch in 2-3 TBSP water) and add.

  5. Meanwhile, heat up your potatoes (either according to package directions or just in the microwave for a minute or so).

  6. Add the sour cream to the beef mixture once it is thickened. Then pour the mixture into a casserole dish (11x9 works well, but it's up to you). Plop the potatoes all over the top of the beef mixture and spread them out with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the cheddar over the top and pop it under the broiler until the cheese in melted and brown in spots.

TO MAKE GHOSTS: Save some of your mashed potatoes. Spoon them into a plastic baggie and snip off one corner. Squeeze the potatoes out of the open corner into a ghost shape. I did one blob for the body and another, smaller one for the head, with a little tail on top. Add eyes. (I used two black, disc-shaped sprinkles we happened to have around, but chocolate sprinkles or raisins would work. Better Homes & Gardens suggested capers, but my kids would freak out over that.)

Hope you all had a wonderful, fun Halloween!


Monday, October 26, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto

So, it was nearly 80 degrees today in San Diego. In late October. Now, don't get me wrong: I love the warm sun on my face as much as the next gal. But I also derive a huge amount of pleasure from the passing of the seasons. I love each season and although I always make an effort to "live in the moment," I can't help but look forward, gleefully, to the next season's arrival. And when it is late October and 80 degrees, I must admit that I feel cheated. I want to wear my jeans and my rocking, new, purple scarf -- not my shorts and flip-flops. I want to eat steaming bowls of soup for lunch -- not another heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad. (No matter how glorious the tomatoes from Valdivia Farms continue to be!)

And so, despite the summer-like weather, I made Butternut Squash Risotto tonight. I love risotto. I make a risotto once a week or so. I love that it simultaneously tastes like high-end restaurant fare and homey comfort food. I also love winter squash. All kinds -- acorn, spaghetti, pumpkin, kabocha, and, of course, butternut. I picked up some squash at the pumpkin patch at Bates Nut Farm a few weekends ago and have been slowly going through it. Most of it has ended up roasted with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper, and thyme, but I used one lovely butternut squash for risotto tonight.

If you've never made risotto because you're intimidated by how much attention it allegedly needs, I am here to tell you: you don't need to baby it all that much. You need to hang out in the kitchen, for sure, but you don't need to constantly stir it and check on it. I have no problem getting a nice big salad together, filling the kids' milk cups, setting the table, etc., while the risotto is cooking. I just peek at the risotto in between each task I do. And once you learn the basic technique for risotto, there is entire world of wonderful risotto recipes out there to try!

This recipe is adapted, barely, from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables. With the sage and squash, it tastes like fall and winter, to me. Now, if only San Diego would get its act together and give me a 60 degree day to go along with this risotto!

Butternut Squash Risotto

Source: Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters
Serves: 6-8
Time: about 10 mins. prep, 30 mins. cooking time
  • 7-8 c chicken stock or broth
  • 1 butternut squash
  • sage leaves, about 15-20
  • 1 onion
  • 3-5 TBSP butter
  • 2 c Arborio rice
  • 1/2 c dry white wine (I often use Champagne!)
  • Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)
  1. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Peel the squash using a sharp vegetable peeler or a knife. Cut the squash into small dice.

  2. Put the squash into a heavy-bottomed pot with some sage leaves and about 1-2 c of the stock. Sprinkle in some salt. Cook until tender but not too soft, about 5 mins. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, chop up some sage leaves (about 5-8) and chop up the onion into small dice.

  3. In the same pot, melt 3 TBSP of butter and cook the sage for about a minute. Then add the onion and cook until translucent (about 5 mins.).

  4. Add the rice and a sprinkle of salt and cook over low heat for about 3 mins., stirring often. Meanwhile, fill up a 2-cup glass measuring cup with stock and heat it up in the microwave.

  5. Add the wine and turn up the heat. When the wine has been absorbed, add just enough hot stock to cover the rice, stir well, and reduce the heat. Keep the rice at a gnetle simmer and continue to add more hot stock, a little at a time, letting each addition be completely absorbed by the rice before adding more.

  6. After about 15-20 mins., the rice will be nearly cooked. Stir in the reserved squash and the Romano cheese. If desired, add another tablespoon or two of butter. Continue cooking for abother 5 mins. or so.

  7. Serve with extra cheese and chopped sage leaves.

Notes: I use the same pot to cook the squash and risotto, but you can streamline the time a bit by using two different pots and cooking them at the same time. (I'd rather have one pot to clean but spend a little longer in the kitchen!) Also, most risotto recipes tell you to heat the liquid at a simmer in a separate pot and then ladle it into the rice as needed. Again, I'd rather not use another pot. So I've been heating the liquid in the microwave and just pouring in a little at a time -- about a 1/2 c. Finally, for those who want extra credit: Alice Waters calls for sauteing some sage leaves in butter until crisp, as a garnish. I tried it and it was yummy, but I just don't usually have the time (or the inclination to use another pan . . . do you detect a pattern here?).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Fancy" Oatmeal

If you have a little girl living in your house, then you probably understand the power of the word "fancy." If I suspect my daughter will not be interested in a certain object or activity, then I just grace it with the adjective "fancy," and, voila, she will at least be curious. A fantastic trick to have in my back pocket. (It took me a while to come up with a similar magic word for my son. Turns out, "secret" works pretty well.)

So, my "fancy" daughter really loves oatmeal and she and I often share a batch for breakfast. But she has become attached to a particular recipe. It's good and nourishing (made with sweet potatoes or pumpkin, yum!), but I wanted variety. I suspected that -- like most preschoolers -- she would not be open to the change. Thus, "fancy oatmeal" was born.

I saw the original recipe for this oatmeal in an issue of Cooking Light magazine and have adjusted it according to what I normally have in my pantry. It's a hearty cereal and very cozy on a chilly morning. Almost makes me yearn for the snowboots and puffer jackets of my Pennsylvania childhood . . . Almost. Then I realize that I now consider a 58 degree morning to be "chilly." Oh, Southern California, you have made me a weather wimp!

My version makes enough to get my daughter and I through about half a week's worth of breakfasts. So, cook this on a Sunday and you can indulge in fancy oatmeal for most of the work week. I enjoy about a 1/2 cup at a serving, accompanied by 2 oz. of Greek yogurt w/ honey and walnuts and half of one of the amazing grapefruits I've been getting at the market. Fancy breakfast, indeed.

"Fancy" Oatmeal

Source: adapted from Cooking Light
Serves: about 6
Time: about 5 mins. of prep and about 25 mins. of cooking time
  • 4 c water
  • 1 c steel-cut, Irish oats
  • 1/4 c wheat germ
  • 1/4 c sunflower seed kernels
  • 1/4 c flax seed meal
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 c dried (unsweetened) cranberries
  • maple syrup for serving
  1. Boil the 4 c of water in a saucepan. Add the oats and all other ingredients except maple syrup. Stir well to thoroughly combine.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer about 25 mins., or according to oatmeal package directions, stirring regularly.
  3. Drizzle some maple syrup over individual portions and serve.
Notes: This is just how we like it. It's more of a formula than a recipe, really, so feel free to try anything that you happen to enjoy in your hot breakfast! Some other suggestions: a pat of butter (my daughter's favorite); a little milk or cream; brown sugar instead of maple syrup; different dried fruits (cherries, raisins, apricots, etc.); nuts (I like walnuts or almonds); a little vanilla extract; apple cider or juice in place of some or all of the water; banana slices added near the end of cooking. The original recipe also called for oat bran, which I'm sure would be delicious -- I just don't usually have any on hand.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

And So It Begins

I've been toying with the idea of a blog for about a year, now. It all started when I stumbled upon Alice Q. Foodie during an internet search for good food in San Diego. I loved reading her posts, trying her recipes, and following her recommendations for good eats around SD. Alice, in turn, led me to other foodie blogs, fashion blogs, mom blogs, friends' blogs . . . And I got to thinking how fun it would be to have a blog. After all, I missed writing. But what do I have to say that anyone in their right mind would want to read about??

Meanwhile, in my daily life as mom, I continued to cook for my family and for many of my friends. And my friends continued to ask me for recipes. I love to cook and am passionate about food and feeding my family, and my friends know that. And so, they ask: how did you prepare that cauliflower? How did you manage to make risotto with two kids in the kitchen? What did you do with all that eggplant from the market? Where did you find that sausage? And I love to answer.

Suddenly, it was obvious what my blog should be about: what I feed my family, and why. Hopefully, it will give you some ideas about what to feed your family. And I hope you'll share your ideas with me, too!

Oh, and the blog's name, "Cooking With Gries?" That's my husband's contribution. He always wanted to have a cooking show with that title -- a play on our last name, Griesbach. Of course, my husband only cooks a few things, so it would be a short -- albeit delicious! -- show.

So, let the show begin! On this pilot episode of Cooking With Gries, let's talk about my new go-to, everyone-is-happy dinner: Spicy Beans with Sausage.

My kids are bean freaks. If dinner has beans in it, they will eat, without complaining. Obviously, this means I cook a lot of bean-based dinners: jambalaya, black bean burritos, red beans and rice, chili . . . the list goes on and on. This little casserole is our latest favorite. It's also been a great meal for taking to neighbors -- many of my friends have recently had babies, and this is a comforting, filling, nourishing, homey dinner to bring to new parents. The dinner equivalent of sitting on the couch, under a blanket, by a roaring fire and a Christmas tree.

I found the original recipe in Picnic, by DeeDee Stovel, and tweaked it so that it worked for me. It's a flexible, forgiving recipe. I've used lots of different combinations of beans, but I do recommend having at least one can of white beans. Also, I've used various types of smoked sausages and just use whatever I've got on hand. If you are serving a large crowd, go for the 2 lbs. of sausage. Otherwise -- or if you're also serving a hearty soup or side dish -- 1 lb. will do fine. I've tried adding small cubes of carrots and potaotes and enjoyed both. Finally, I think this would be divine with some buttered breadcrumbs sprinkled on top near the end of the cooking time, but haven't tried it yet. (Let me know if you do!)


PS This freezes beautifully, too!

Source: Adapted from Picnic, DeeDee Stovel
Serves: 8-10
Time: about 20 mins. of work and 90 mins. of unattended cooking

  • 3 cans of beans -- white, kidney, pinto, etc.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 x 10 oz pkg frozen corn
  • 5 slices already-cooked bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
  • 1 medium green bell pepper
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1-2 lbs. kielbasa, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 c grated cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Put the beans, with their liquid, into a Dutch oven or other large, lidded casserole. Add the bay leaf and bake, covered tightly, for at least an hour -- but longer is fine, too, if you forget about them. Just check every now and again to make sure they aren't drying out -- and if they are, add a splash of water.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and saute the onion and garlic until softened, about 2 mins. Set them aside and put the kielbasa chunks in the skillet until browned, about 15 mins.
  4. Remove the beans from the oven and add all other ingredients. Stir very gently, so as not to break up the beans too much. Return to the oven and bake, covered, another 30-40 mins., or until bubbly. Just before serving, sprinkle with some cheese.